'Pobre, pero Honrada!'(1973) is a dated, yet fun and entertaining film starring comedienne Maria Elena Velasco, alias 'La India Maria'. I still enjoyed the film despite the esoteric humor and the fact that I can't speak Spanish fluently. In her films, she usually portrays a humble, noble, sympathetic woman who tries to co-exist with pretentious people, big-wigs, con-artists, foreigners, etc. My family, mostly Mexican-Americans, used to watch her films as we lived in the U.S. for many decades. La India Maria's films almost always bring a smile to my face. In 'Pobre, pero Honrada', Maria sells spring water with enigmatic healing qualities, but some people, including two con-artists, want to tarnish her reputation because they think her claim that the spring water is "magical" is illegitimate and bogus. Also, some people want to see if the water is really "magical" so they can take it away from Maria and capitalize on it. As if things weren't stressful enough, Maria passes out while she cleans inside a church and she has to have an minor operation involving her appendix, or something. Around the same time, a rich man's daughter asks her father to help get rid of her illegitimate child: the tycoon and a surgeon try to make La India Maria believe that the baby is hers. Maria, being a very humble, chaste, simple-minded woman , assumes that she's a modern-day(for the 1970's)"Virgin Mary". When the authorities try to take Maria's baby away and some people continue to exploit her, she flees from her hometown with the baby and her mule in tow. Will Maria's luck turn around?
Aside from the serious-sounding plot, 'Pobre, pero Honrada' is a good, light-hearted film. A priest(played by Angel Garasa), is willing to tell the authorities that he's the father of the baby(he's telling a "white lie", of course) so the baby won't be put in an orphanage. There's room for lots of ironic humor in 'Pobre, pero Honrada'. Maria carjacks a jeep that belongs to two con-artists when she tries to get away from the authorities(she drives surprisingly well for someone with no driver training!). This was a nicely staged action scene, but thankfully, 'Pobre...' doesn't forget it's a comedy. I love that bit where Maria pulls off the road and she can still see cop cars and helicopters that are "chasing her", but they're actually chasing nothing! In Spanish, Maria yells out, "I AM RIGHT HERE!" That scene cracks me up every time. I saw this film on a grey-market VHS tape that my sister bought at a flea market; it was shown in pan-and-scan with muddy video and audio. It was watchable, nonetheless. A definitive home video version of 'Pobre...pero Honrada' should be released one day. Recommended.
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